The City of Bellingham and Whatcom County Health and Community Services (WCHCS) are responding to reports of algae and green-colored water at Lake Padden and Padden Creek. Test results expected by next week will indicate whether the algae blooms are harmful to human, pet or environmental health. Until more is known, it’s best to avoid contact with the water.
Some algae blooms, such as blue-green or cyanobacteria, can produce toxins that can be harmful. These harmful blooms can look identical to non-harmful blooms, which is why agencies test when blooms are reported.
Algae blooms occur naturally in many water bodies including Lake Padden and Padden Creek. Bellingham and Whatcom County Health and Community Services track and monitor the blooms and provide public notice to keep people and their pets away from the algae blooms.
WCHCS provides guidance on the public health aspect of potentially harmful algal blooms and the City supports that effort as the landowner by posting warning signs and testing water samples.
Tom Kunesh, environmental health supervisor, said WCHCS has responded to reports of recent blooms.
“We are sampling the Padden Creek bloom and will send the sample to King County to test for toxins. We should have results the week of March 6,” said Kunesh. “People and pets should avoid contact with water where algae blooms are visible.”
According to Renee LaCroix, assistant director of Bellingham Public Works – Natural Resources, the current algae bloom in Padden Creek could be the same bloom that was observed in Lake Padden last week. Those blooms were tested and found to be well below the level that the EPA has determined to be a risk for humans.
“Recent wind and rain may have pushed the bloom from Lake Padden to the area downstream of I-5 in Padden Creek,” said LaCroix.
More information on blue-green algae is available on the State Department of Health website and at www.nwtoxicalgae.org.